Thursday Dec 06, 2007

Yochai Benkler: The Wealth of Networks

This afternoon I attended a teleconference at the University of Sao Paulo where Yochai Benkler talked from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, about his now famous book "The Wealth of Networks" (available online) and answered questions from the audience. Yochai talked about the impact of open source and peer to peer modes of co-operative production on economics, politics, arts and education. The book has many excellent and illuminating examples on how massively parallel and distributed use of human resources can outperform large centrally organised tayloristics production methods. He does point out that this won't work in every field of endeavour, but more naturally in knowledge based ones, where the cost of reproduction is close to zero. More details in the freely available book.

The conference was organised by Imre Simon from the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of Sao Paulo. A web site in portuguese is dedicated to this talk, and it was broadcast live on the web.

At the end of the talk, as the last question from the floor, I asked about what research had been done into applying Metcalf's law to networks as powerful as the Semantic Web, and so how this would affect questions on the wealth of networks. Yochai seemed to think that the Semantic Web was too much about data, and not about people. Of course Beatnik, the semantic address book I am working on right now, is going to show how this dichotomy is completely illusory, and how the distributed, decentralised world of hyperdata should fit perfectly into the central thesis of the book. :-)

Friday Aug 17, 2007

Open Data: Information wants to be linked

With over 2 billion relations from the great web community data projects such as Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, Music Brainz, and many more... the Linking Open Data initiative is tying together a vast pool of quality machine readable information on which one can run any of the over 500 Semantic Web tools. As the value of linked information increases much faster than the networks described by Metcalf's Law, the value of this must be tremendous.

By creating data browsing interfaces such as Tabulator, one has a very simple RESTful, Resource Oriented Architecture API to work with. With various SPARQL endpoints available or to be built, one can treat that information like a hugely powerful database.

Forget Web APIs: long live linked data!

Some of the projects listed are:

Tuesday May 08, 2007

Dropping some Doap into NetBeans

Yesterday evening I gave a short 10 minute presentation on the Semantic Web in front of a crowd of 1000 NetBeans developers during James Gosling's closing presentation at NetBeans Day in San Francisco.

In interaction with Tim Boudreau we managed to give a super condensed introduction to the Semantic Web, something that is only possible because its foundations are so crystal clear - which was the underlying theme of the talk. It's just URIs and REST and relations to build clickable data. (see the pdf of the presentation)

All of this lead to a really simple demonstration of an integration with NetBeans that Tim Boudreau was key in helping me put together. Tim wrote the skeleton of a simple NetBeans plugin (stored in the contrib/doap section of the NetBeans CVS repository), and I used Sesame 2 beta 3 to extract the data from the so(m)mer doap file that got dropped onto NetBeans. As a result NetBeans asked us were we wanted to download the project, and after selecting a directory on my file system, it proceeded to check out the code. On completion it asked us if we wanted to install the modules in our NetBeans project. Now that is simple. Drag a DOAP url onto NetBeans: project checked out!

This Thursday we will be giving a much more detailed overview of the Semantic Web in the BOF-6746 - Web 3.0: This is the Semantic Web, taking place at 8pm at Moscone on Thursday. Hope to see you there!

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